Aim for the world: Sarawakian brands have the potential to shine above all

Buy Local (file photo).


“I’m sure if Sarawakians know Lee Fah Mee is a Sarawak-based brand, they will buy more compared to other foreign brands. That’s what I believe in.”

That is how confident Leaves Food Industries Sdn Bhd director Alan Chai Ming Lun is when it comes to Sarawakian products, but added that local small and medium enterprises (SMEs) will need to up their branding game to compete with international brands that regularly pour tons of money on branding, even when they already are known to every household.


“You see, everybody knows Maggi and KFC, but they still spend a lot on branding every year. We see promotional videos everywhere. If local brands were to invest more in shaping their brands to increase exposure, I believe Malaysians will support them.

“For me, if I don’t know a brand well, I might not want to buy it,” Chai told DayakDaily, adding that the product quality must of course be the first priority before anything else.

A product that looks good on the outside with refined and expensive packaging, but lacking in quality would be just a waste of resources, he opined.

Believing that there are a great deal of Sarawakian and Malaysian brands on par with imported goods in the market, Chai said local brands needed a bit of a push for them to gain traction with consumers.

Local brand awareness was “not quite there yet”, as he put it.

As a proud Sarawakian, Chai hopes to spread his passion by extolling the many wonderful points of Sarawakian products and their uniqueness that sets them apart from the competition on the national and even global market.

“If you drink ‘Teh C Special’, the 3-layer milk tea separately, you won’t find it as tasty as when they are mixed together. The tea alone will be bitter, milk is just milk, and syrup is too sweet for direct consumption.

“But, if you mix them all together, there is harmony in its taste. Just like our Sarawakians. We work together well, and we want to show the world our own special blend of flavour and products.”

Leaves Food Industries director Alan Chai.

A brand which was established in Sarawak since 2000, Leaves first started with concentrated ‘Pat Poh’ cooling herbal tea that was served in glass bottles. The formula was created by a loving mother, Josephine, who had to improvise to get her four children to drink traditional herbal tea without too much sweetener or colouring.

Soon, friends, families and neighbours who got a taste of Josephine’s ‘secret formula’ had encouraged her to start a business.

Josephine and her husband, Andy, took up the challenge. The business then slowly grew to have more concentrated local drink selections on their menu, such as peppermint herbal tea, honey chrysanthemum tea, green tea, barley lemon juice, wheat grass and winter melon.

As of today, Leaves is present in many local and global markets including Sarawak, Sabah, Selangor, Penang, Johor, Australia, Brunei and Singapore. Their logo has become ubiquitous in coffeeshops, food courts, supermarkets, and they are currently looking into expanding their customer base to minimart chains.

In 2004, Leaves achieved one of its greatest milestones when it introduced the first 3-layer Milk Tea Syrup (‘Teh C Special’ Syrup) in the region. After perfecting the ratio of the three main elements (syrup, evaporated milk and black tea) of a Teh C Special, Leaves proudly launched, in 2020, the 3-layer milk tea again, but with a ready-to-drink approach.

It was the first-ever canned drink invented specially for Sarawak, with a local flair.

Leaves’ first canned drinks: Sarawak 3-layer Milk Tea. Photo courtesy of Leaves.

Despite Covid-19 and the drop of sales in coffeeshops (‘kopitiams’) due to the dine-in ban this year, Chai said supermarket sales have increased as the company saw the public shift their buying trends to including more groceries.

Seeing no reason to stop because of a global pandemic, Leaves took a leap of faith and ventured into online sales through Facebook, marketing and selling their products using the platform’s livestream function and other online marketplace platforms.

To the government, Chai also had a suggestion to benefit SMEs. In conjunction with the government’s initiative of the ‘Buy Malaysia Campaign’ (BMC), he wished that large-scale exhibitions, exchange symposiums or conferences could be organised, be it physically or virtually, to link local SMEs to potential buyers from overseas.

“Maybe the government can hold bigger size exhibitions for us (SMEs), not just lasting for only three days. For virtual events, maybe extend it to two or three months?

“The government could invite overseas buyers and investors from its list of contacts, and play its role in bridging the gap between local brands and the outside world,” he suggested.

Chai, who has been reaching out to the international market through agencies namely Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (Matrade) and Sarawak Trade and Tourism Office Singapore (Statos), only wanted more opportunities for Leaves’ products to be seen and tasted.

For those interesting to know more about Leaves’ product, the company may be reacheable at +6011 2233 9999 or +6082 433 979.  Read more about Leaves at

What is the ‘Buy Malaysia Campaign’?

Here’s a quick explanation of the ‘Buy Malaysia Campaign’, and what it’s all about.

Launched since 1984, BMC or also known as Buy Malaysian Products Campaign (Kempen Beli Barangan Malaysia), aims at promoting local products and encouraging consumers in the country to ‘buy local’, prioritising purchasing goods made in Malaysia.

It is also to help local entrepreneurs in facing less favourable economic growth, and to raise public awareness of the quality of Malaysian-made goods and services that are on par with international standards.

As an annual and ongoing campaign, the implementation of BMC involves two main approaches, which are the awareness campaign in the mass media (electronic media and print media) and social media, as well as running promotional campaigns through retail sectors.

KBBM logo: Let’s support and buy Malaysian-made products.

On Feb 22, KPDNHEP Minister Dato Sri Alexander Nanta Linggi said the ministry managed to form a strategic partnership with 15 major retailers and three major e-commerce platforms (marketplace) since July 2020.

In supporting this campaign, the participating retailers will organise their own BMC initiatives in their stores nationwide, which include made-in-Malaysia point of purchase advertisement display, tagging and labeling of Malaysia-made products on the shelves.

Among BMC’s strategic partners in the retail sector for 2021 are AEON Big, AEON Co., Giant, Mydin, 99 Speedmart, The Store, Hero Supermarket, KK Supermarket, Eco-shop, Lotus Store, Econsave, Lulu Group, TF Value-Mart, Bataras, Petronas and Shell from across Malaysia.

The online platforms or marketplace included Shopee, Lazada and PG Mall.

In 2020, products sold under BMC on online market place platforms increased exponentially, with sales of more than RM145 million compared to only RM6.84 million in 2019.

KPDNHEP secretary-general Datuk Seri Hasnol Zam Zam Ahmad, on Sept 2, said this was a huge milestone for the campaign when the total stock keeping units (SKU) of 279,000 marketed on various retail platforms in 2019 had increased to 279,000 SKU in 2020.

This collaboration had generated RM3.3 billion in sales for the retail sector in 2020 compared to RM2.87 billion in 2019.

For 2021, Hasnol said the campaign will continue based on 2020’s performance with a variety of approaches including the increased involvement of strategic partners from the retail sector.

Nanta (left) and Hasnol (right).

High-quality and affordable Malaysian products are truly gems just waiting to be discovered in our own backyard.

It’s no stretch to say that there are Malaysian products that truly excel in quality. Heard of Old Town White Coffee, or Bonia? Yep, you guessed it: Made in Malaysia.

So give it a try the next time you’re out shopping for your next purchase. Malaysian products are no slouches when it comes to quality, and they’re out to prove it.

For more information on local products, please visit  — DayakDaily